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A way of driving voters away?

Today I got a new driver’s license to reflect my weekend move from Baton Rouge to Lafayette. I did so as fast as I could to make the deadline for voting in the November elections. The deadline is 30 days prior to the Nov. 6 election — so if you aren’t sure about your current registration status, check it this week!

According to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website, voters are required to present identification such as driver’s license, Special ID or “some other generally recognized picture ID that contains your name and signature.” Voters who don’t possess any of the above can bring “a utility bill, payroll check or government document that includes their name and address.” Voters with such documents “will have to sign an affidavit furnished by the Elections Division in order to vote.” As far as voting requirements go, this seems fair; it balances the integrity of the polls with accessibility for citizens.

I’ve spent 10 of my 14 voting years in Louisiana, and have never had a problem either voting or registering to do so. I voted in my first election before I had a driver’s license, using my college ID. A year later, I changed my address three weeks before an election, but still was able to vote at my previous precinct. Since then, it’s been smooth sailing everywhere I’ve lived.

Knock on wood.

One of the big political stories of 2012 has been the push toward more stringent voter laws nationwide. Though Louisiana hasn’t been among the major players in this push, the state shares the conservative makeup that most of the states involved have in common. Mandatory picture ID for voters could absolutely happen here in the near future.

Critics — I’m raising my hand here — contend that photo-ID laws are less about curbing voter fraud than about curbing voters, period. In a sense, it’s a genius political calculation by Republicans, who would benefit from the reduced influx of poor, minority, college and elderly voters for whom narrow ID standards can be an obstacle, and can disguise that de facto purge as upholding poll integrity. And who could possibly be against voter integrity?

Well, my trip to the DMV reminded me exactly why I’m against voter integrity — at least as the ID proponents define it.

In Lafayette, the DMV office is located at the very north edge of town near Carencro, on a frontage road off I-49. It’s the only one in the entire city, and people often confuse it with a police station on another frontage road (which, for a long time after the new DMV opened, had a stack of fliers pointing visitors to the correct location). The DMV’s isolated location is accessible almost exclusively by car, adjacent only to a Mexican restaurant whose core business is probably weary licensees. For those relying on the bus, their own two feet or a walker, it might as well be Emerald City. Even if you do get there, you’d better have the right papers and cash, just in case. Some don’t. Some never have.

As long as ID offices are less ubiquitous than polling stations, stringent ID laws are going to disenfranchise some (or many) legit voters — citizens whose only crime is lack of access to offices and/or proper documentation. For those making the push, this outcome is exactly what they want.

Let’s make sure anyone wanting to bring Louisiana into this poisonous movement has an equally tough road ahead.


3 comments on “A way of driving voters away?

  1. sherloque says:

    Hi, Reading the dailykingfish to learn about politics in Louisiana, I’m a newbie so forgive me for posting inadequate comments… in France voting places are usually schools, quite handy as everyone knows where they are and are of easy access usually.

    One thing I wanted to mention but that has nothing to do with the article, is the color of parties. In EU the red color means left parties, very left even as it is used to mean communist or bolshvik! I am amazed to learn that red for you means the republicans. I guess it comes from the uniforms in the civil war, does it?


  2. lowb35 says:

    Ian, welcome to Lafayette and to the DMV office I personally avoid like the plague for the same reasons… those with reliable transportation are better off going to Abbeville or Breaux Bridge, which even further emphasizes your point about lack of access. When I first moved here 10 years ago Lafayette’s DMV was in what wasn’t much more than a shack… but on the Thruway across from the airport, so in a more accessible location. My guess is that the local powers that be figured, it’s a DMV, people can and will drive there. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if they got some kind of incentive for developing on the northside rather than staying where they were near the airport. Are driver’s licenses/IDs also cash only in BR, or is that just a local phenom? Based on what happened in the parking and transit office of our local university, which ceased cash operations only after the former parking and transit head got caught with his hand in the till and committed suicide, I can imagine that cash-only operations at the local DMVs are also ripe for fraud. Fraud that would only get bigger if our fair state doubles down on “voter fraud” aka disenfranchisement. But since (unfortunately) we are reliably red and the state has already done a decent job of disenfranchising a significant percentage of its populace through the prison system, maybe there isn’t the same urgency here as in other states where the demographics have shifted significantly enough to make the GOP very afraid.


    1. Ian McGibboney says:

      I’m originally from Lafayette, so I’m very familiar with everything you’ve mentioned (and thanks for the welcome). I got my first two licenses in that shack near the airport. My family always went to Abbeville or Breaux Bridge, telling me Lafayette was always too crowded, but I found it empty most of the times I went there (maybe because enough people thought it was crowded…). But yes, middle of nowhere. There actually were some old houses nearby, but even then it was an arduous walk.

      Statewide, Louisiana requires cash only for driver’s license transactions (you can pay for license plates by check or card). I think the idea is, ironically enough, that those are the transactions most ripe for fraud, so you don’t want people paying for licenses with bad checks. I don’t know for sure. Doesn’t say much for what the state expects of people who don’t own cars.

      To get a license or registration in Missouri, you have to show a stack of documents, including a county tax receipt (which you have to get at the downtown courthouse, near no license location) — it’s very common for people to get in line for an hour, only to find they’re missing something and have to drive across town to get it. The upshot is, their bureaucracy is mostly on the ball. Also, they aren’t among the states seriously pushing the ID scam.


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